Viswanatha Satyanarayana (10 September 1885 – 18 October 1976)
Compilation – Ch. Kalyanchakravarthy
Among the greatest writers of 20th Century, the versatile Telugu poet and writer Kavi Samrat Sri Viswanatha Satyanarayana was a prolific writer whose works include poetry, novels, plays, short stories, speeches, history, philosophy, religion, sociology, political science, linguistics, studies of psychology and consciousness, epistemology, aesthetics, and analysis of spiritualism. A pupil of the eminent classical Telugu writer and Avadhani Chellapilla Venkata Sastri of the Tirupati Venkata Kavulu fame (poet-duo), Sri Viswanatha covered a wide range of subjects. Viswanatha wrote in both modern and classical styles, with complex modalities, following the rules of poetry such as yati, prasa (rhyme) and chandassu (classical telugu grammar). His greatest works include Ramayana Kalpa Vruksham (రామాయణ కల్పవృక్షం), Kinnarasani patalu (Songs), and the novel Veyipadagalu (వేయి పడగలు/Thousand Hoods). These are only part of the wide variety of literature he produced. At the same time, no contemporary Telugu literary scholar could match the depth and literary mastery of the subjects he dealt with. Among many awards, he was the first Telugu writer to win the GnyanaPitha Award in 1970 and the Padma Bhushan Award in 1971. He was also the Asthana Kavi (Poet Laureate) of Andhra Pradesh. Viswanatha was a great patriot and a quintessential Andhra. Govt of India released a stamp in his honour in 2017.
Life and Times
Vishwanatha Satyanarayana was born in a Brahmin family, Sobhanadri and Parvatamma were his parents. He was born on 10th September 1885 in his ancestral home in Nandamuru (now Ungutur mandal, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh). During his childhood, the beautiful rural/village culture made a lasting impression on Satyanarayana. Traditional performers of the street folk art-forms fascinated his young mind and they have educated him too . These art forms include storytelling, improvisational poetry, music, performance and dance in various forms. The bond between villagers that transcends caste and social barriers, and the beauty of village life shaped his thoughts and ideology. His higher education shifted to the prestigious Nobel college in nearby Bandar/ Machilipatnam at the age of 11. His father, Sobhanadri, who by then had lost his fortune to philanthropy, thought an English-focused education would help his son achieve good grades. He participated in national freedom movement. Due to his father’s philanthropy, the family lost everything, and Satyanarayana suffered abject penury, he had to discontinue his education. He worked as a teacher in different capacities in Bandar Andhra National College, Guntur Andhra Christian College for brief period. He was without a job for a long period, suffered poverty, but made a great name for his prolific writings. Later Sri Viswanatha worked as the Head, Dept of Telugu, in SRR and CVR College (1938-59), Vijayawada. He was the first Principal of Karimnagar Public University (1959-1961). Some of Viswanatha’s disciples formed a committee with Thummalapalli Ramalingeshwara Rao and Cherkapali Jamadagni Sarma as secretaries to celebrate his Sahasra Purna Chandrodayam ( A Hindu ceremony where a person completes 80 yrs of age), at Vijayawada in 1976. Vedic ceremonies in the morning followed by Sahitya Goshti (meeting) in the evening celebrated the occasion. Such was his impact on his students. He wrote `Varalakshmi trisathi’, elegy of 300 poems in memory of his first wife Varalakshmi. He always was in the forefront of supporting his peers, young scholars and had cordial friendships with eminent poets, writers and historians. A man of tall stature in traditional attire, his peers remember him as a man of great personality, charisma and wit. He passed away on 18th October 1976.
According to Viswanatha, history is not the story of kings, but the story that makes us understand the sociological, political, economic, cultural, scientific, spiritual and aesthetic life of men and their evolution in a given time. Based on the ancient Bharatiya chronology of the great historian, Sri Kota Venkatachalam, Viswanatha created his three series of novels depicting all these aspects of ancient and medieval societies with famous characters from three royal lineages.
- Purana Vaira granthamalais a series of 12 novels about the Magadha Royal dynasties after Mahabharata war. In this series, there are two tendencies – Krishna representing Dharma, and Jayadratha representing the darker side of human psyche, the unrighteous side. The primary characters in each of the 12 novels behave under the influence of these two tendencies, each having its temporal victories.
- Nepala Rajavamsa charitrais a series of 6 novels about the Nepali Royal dynasties. This series expounds Charvaka school of thought, its intricacies and sub-schools, social life and values influenced by charvakas.
- Kashmira Rajavamsa charitrais a series of 6 novels woven around the Royal dynasties that ruled Kashmir.
Viswanatha’s literary works include 30 poems, 20 plays, 60 novels, 10 critical evaluations, 200 Khanda Kavya, 35 short stories, 3 plays, 70 essays and 50 radio plays, 10 essays in English, 10 works in Sanskrit, 3 translations, and 100 prefaces and radio talks. Some of his poems and novels have been translated into English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu and Sanskrit. `Veyipadagalu’ was translated into Hindi by former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao as `Sahasraphan’. His novel `Ekaveera’ was made into a movie.
Most of Viswanatha’s novels depict evolving social conditions, and involve an in-depth analysis of culture as well as human nature and consciousness.
- Veyipadagalu (The Thousand Hoods)
- Swarganiki Nicchenalu (Ladders to Heaven)
- Terachi Raju (Checkmate)
- Cheliyali Katta
- Maa Babu (Our babu)
- Jebu Dongalu (Pickpocketers)
- Veera Valladu (Valla the valorous)
- Vallabha Mantri (The Minister Vallabha), after Sardar Vallabhai Patel
- Vishnu Sharma English Chaduvu (Vishnu Sharma Learning English), in which Tikkana and Vishnu Sarma two great literary figures of India attempt to learn English from the author. This parody is a critique of English and its grammar. The Novel was dramatised and staged in Ravindra Bharati, Hyderabad.in 2006 and was made as a tele-film by Doordarsan in 2008 and won the Golden Nandi Award. Dr. G.B. Ramakrishna Sastry acted as Viswanadha Satyanarayana and secured the Nandi Award for Best Acting.
- Pulula Satyagraham (Tigers Satyagraha)
- Devatala Yuddhamu (The Battle of Gods)
- Punarjanma (Rebirth)
- Pariksha (Exam)
- Nandigrama Rajyam (Kingdom of Nandigam)
- Antaratma (The Conscient Self)
- Ganguly Prema Katha (Ganguly’s Love Story)
- Aaru Nadulu (Six Rivers)
- Chandavolu Rani (The Queen of Chandavolu)
- Ha Ha Hu Hu, the name of a horse-faced demigod who does a mythical landing in London
- Mroyu Tummeda (The Humming Bee), an in-depth analysis of Traditional Indian Music, sound and consciousness
- Samudrapu Dibba (Ocean Dune)
- Damayanti Swayamvaram (Swayamvara of Princess Damayanti)
- Neela Pelli (Neela’s Wedding)
- Sarvari Nundi Sarvari Daka (From Night to Night)
- Kunaluni Sapamu (The curse of Kunala)
- Ekaveera (The sacred Love of two warriors)
- Dharma Chakramu (The Wheel of Righteous Order)
- Kadimi Chettu (A Tree)
- Veera Puja
- Sneha Phalamu (Fruit of Friendship)
- Baddana Senani (The General Baddana)
(The twelve below form Purana Vaira Granthamala Series)
- Bhagavantuni meeda paga (vengeance against god)
- Nastika Dhumamu (the smoke of disbelief)
- Dhumarekha (the line of smoke)
- Nando raja bhavishyati (Nanda will be the king)
- Chandraguptuni Swapnamu (Chandragupta’s dream)
- Puli Muggu
(The six below form Nepala Rajavamsa series)
- Dindu Kindi Poka Chekka (The Betel Nut Under the Pillow)
- Chitli Chitlani Gajulu (The half broken bangles)
- Lalita Pattanapu Rani (Queen of the Lalita town)
- Dantapu Duvvena (Ivory Comb)
- Duta Meghamu (Cloud-messenger)
(The six below form Kashmira Rajavamsa series)
- Kavalalu (Twins)
- Patipettina Nanemulu (The Buried Coins)
- Sanjeevakarani (The Medicinal Herb)
- Bhramara Vasini (Goddess of the Humming Bee)
- Srimad Ramayana Kalpavruksham (‘Ramayana the divine wish-granting tree’, the work for which he was awarded Jnanapith)
- Andhra Pourushamu (The Andhra valor)
- Andhra Prashasti (Fame of Andhras)
- Ritu Samharamu ( Seasonal cycle)
- Sri Kumarabhyudayamu (Emergence of Kumara)
- Girikumaruni prema geetaalu (Love songs of Giri Kumara)
- Gopalodaharanamu (About Gopala)
- Gopika geetalu ( Gopika’s songs)
- Jhansi Rani
- Pradyumnodayamu (Rise of Pradyumna)
- Bhramara geetalu (Songs of the humming bee)
- Maa swamy (Our Lord)
- Ruru charitramu (Story of Ruru)
- Varalakshmi trishati (300 poems dedicated to Varalakshmi)
- Devi trishati (in Sanskrit, 300 verses in devotion to the mother goddess)
- Vishwanatha Panchashati (500 verses to devatas)
- Vishwanatha madhyaakkaralu (series of poems written in the meter ‘madhyaakkara’)
- Veni bhangamu (Violating the stream/plait)
- Sashi duutamu (Moon-messenger)
- Sringara veedhi (The streets of romance)
- Sri Krishna Sangeetamu (Krishna music)
- Naa Ramudu (My Rama, an introductory to his concept of Rama expounded in the Kaplavrikshamu)
- Sivarpanamu (Ode to Siva)
- Dharmapatni (The Consort)
- Bhrashta yogi (Fallen yogi)
- Kedara gowla
- Goloka vasi (The lord of Goloka)
- Gupta Pasupatam (the secret Pasupata, in Sanskrit and rewritten in Telugu)
- Amrita Sarmistham (in Sanskrit)
- Anta Natakame (all is drama)
- Kavyaveda Harischandra
- Talli leni pilla (motherless girl)
- Trishulamu (the trident)
- Nartanashala (the dance theater)
- Pravahamu (the flow)
- Lopala-bayata (in & out)
- Shivaji – roshanara
- Dhanya kailasamu
- A collection of 16 short plays
- Kavya Parimalamu (the fragrance of poetry, on aesthetics)
- Kavyanandamu (analysis of aesthetics)
- Shakuntalamu yokka abhijnanata (apprisal of Kalidasa’s Abhijnana Shakuntalam)
- Allasani vari allika jigibigi (an apprisal of Peddana’s poetry)
- Okadu nachana somanna (an apprisal of Nachana Somanna’s poetry)
- Nannayyagari prasanna katha kalitartha yukti (an apprisal of Nannayya’s poetry)
- Sitaayaascharitam mahat (great is the story of Sita)
- Kalpavriksha rahasyamulu (secrets of the Kalpavrikshamu)
- Vishwanatha sahityopanyasamulu (a collection of speeches on literature)
- Niti Gita (moral stories)
- Sahitya Surabhi (a primer on poetry and literature)
- Kinnerasani Patalu
- Yati geetamu
- Kokilamma Pelli
- Paamu paata
- Chinna kathalu
- What is Ramayana to me
- Atma katha
- He was given the honorific “Kavi Samrat” (emperor of poets).
- In 1964 Andhra Viswa Kala Parishat gave him the honorific ” Kalaprapoorna “.
- In 1942 on sankranthi at Gudivada he was honored by climbing him on the elephant (gajarohana). 60 years completion celebrations (shashtipoorthi) was also held at Gudivada in 1956.
- Sri Venkateswara University honored him with D. Lit. Degree.
- In 1962 Kendra Sahitya academy Puraskaram was given for “viswanatha madhyakkaralu”.
- In 1970 he was honored as Andhra Pradesh Government’s Laureate.
- In 1970 Indian Government awarded him Padma Bhushan .
- In 1971 he was awarded with Gnanapeeth Award for his book Ramayana Kalpavruksham. He was the first Telugu writer to receive this award.